Posted by: bluelanternstudio | December 5, 2012

Vancity Art Commission

This past summer I was awarded one of a handful of commissions for original artwork by Vancity Credit Union. My piece, now hanging in the credit union’s newly renovated South Burnaby Branch, is a mixed media collage of Byrne Creek Ravine, a local park. If you’re in Burnaby, you can see the piece in the Branch’s Community Stage Room, a space that’s available for use by non-profit organizations.

Byrne Creek Ravine by Robi Smith

Byrne Creek Ravine (mixed media collage, 36″ x 24″, artist: Robi Smith)

In developing the piece, I wanted to create the feeling of being in the ravine, surrounded by the fish, birds and animals that live there. I also wanted to incorporate the surrounding community and its relationship with nature.

To begin with, I took a number of walks through the park and down the ravine to the water below. I took a series of photographs which became my reference points for developing the final piece. This one of me sketching was taken by a photographer at the Burnaby Now newspaper.

Me sketching in Byrne Creek Ravine (photo courtesy the Burnaby Now)

Me sketching in Byrne Creek Ravine (photo courtesy the Burnaby Now)

The artwork is a mixture of collage and acrylic painting on a wood panel. Back in my studio, I began sketching out the basic forms in acrylic paint, and then painting in the background.

Sketching in the background

Filling in the background

I then began adding collage elements. To bring the idea of the local community into the piece, I sourced some local history books and pamphlets about the original pioneers who settled in the area. I cut out the shapes of the forest (rocks, trees, logs, ferns, water) from the images and text from these papers, painted them with washes of acrylic and glued them on to the painted background.

First collage elements

I then took maps of Burnaby and cut out in the shapes of animals. I painted them, drawing in details with ink, before adding them to the piece.

spawning coho

Because I wanted the animals and birds in the final piece to be true to the ones found in the park, I contacted the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers. They were very helpful, providing me with a list of species that volunteers have seen in the ravine. While I didn’t include every one, I did include a beaver, raccoons, skunk, coyote, squirrel, a robin, bald eagle, hawks, barred owl, salmon, trout and a lamprey.

racoon and birds

beaver and fish


In the end, I’m very happy with the new piece. And it has a great home,  hanging next to commissioned artwork by two of my favourite local artists, Rachael Ashe and Christina Norberg.

Installation view at Vancity's South Burnaby Branch (photo: Rachael Ashe)

Installation view at Vancity’s South Burnaby Branch (photo: Rachael Ashe)

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